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As hotels continue to rely on technology to improve guestsâ€™ experiences, brands must grapple with how much high-tech versus how much â€œhigh touchâ€ -- human interaction and personalized service -- is ideal.
Technological innovations will continue to shape hotel experiences in 2017 and beyond. Robot butlers that deliver room service, keyless room entry via apps, mirrors with touchscreens that allow access to email, and in-room televisions that allow streaming of your videos and photos are already available in select properties. More advances are predicted for the future.
But as hotels continue to rely on technology to improve guests’ experiences, brands must grapple with how much high-tech versus how much “high touch” -- human interaction and personalized service -- is ideal.
Current High-Tech Hotel Innovations
Robot Butlers: Japan’s Henn-na Hotel in Sasebo, which opened in 2015, is entirely staffed by robots. That includes the robots who greet you at reception and the ones who tote your luggage. In the U.S. some Aloft hotels employ Botlr, a robotic butler, to bring towels, toothbrushes and other items that you request through your smartphone to your room. No tip required, although Botlr likes Tweets about the service. Currently available at Aloft Cupertino and Aloft Silicon Valley.
Smart Mirrors and Twin TVs: The smart room mirrors in some Four Points by Sheraton properties make it easy to multitask. While brushing your hair, smoothing your clothes, or just checking out your appearance, see live weather reports, sports scores, and stock market information. If you connect the mirror to your smart phone, you can check your email too. Is there a conflict with your partner about what to watch on television? That’s not a problem in the concept rooms that feature two side-by-side televisions.
Voice-Activated Rooms: No one likes getting out of bed to adjust the room temperature or turn off the lights before going to sleep. Forget about such inconveniences with Aloft’s voice-activated hotel rooms, each of which comes with an iPad equipped with a special Aloft app. Along with controlling temperature and light, you can ask Siri to tell you about local attractions and even play your favorite music. Currently available at Aloft Boston Seaport and Aloft Santa Clara.
Mobile Check-in/out, Requests, Access: Hotels are incorporating more mobile functions as they target travel experiences to the generation that wants things instantly and is more accustomed to texting and apps than talking. At select Marriott properties, you can use your smart phone and special apps to check-in (and out), access your room and request extra pillows or other items. There’s no need to stop at or call the front desk for service.
Future Hotel Technological Innovations
Hotels.com celebrated its 25th anniversary by releasing a study on hotels of the future. The company partnered with futurist James Canton, PHD, of the Institute for Global Futures, to envision the hotel experience in 2060. Key predictions include:
Sophisticated RoboButlers: These bots, programmable online, will speak many languages, greet guests at the airport, deliver food and provide companionship.
3D Printers in Every Room: Such devices will lessen or even eliminate luggage as guests will be able to create their own shoes and clothes, and even pharmaceuticals, by downloading these items from the cloud.
Neuro-Dreaming: The definition of a good night’s sleep will change as neurotechnology will enable guests to choose the dream they want before dozing off.
These may sound far-fetched, and maybe they are, but at one time so did cell phones, the Internet and voice-activated devices.